Top international hoops prospect Alex Toohey picks Gonzaga

Top international basketball prospect Alex Toohey has committed to the Gonzaga Bulldogs, he told ESPN on Tuesday.

"Gonzaga stood out with their history of winning and making international players better," Toohey said. "Being able to learn from a great coach in Mark Few will be special."

Toohey picked Gonzaga over Villanova, Michigan and Davidson after taking official visits with his parents to all four schools in October. Duke, Florida, Illinois and others also showed interest in the versatile 6-foot-8 small forward.

The 18-year-old Australian is considered one of the most promising international prospects committing to the college route in the Class of 2023, having already made a debut with his senior national team in FIBA competition in February 2021. He joined the Boomers again for their FIBA World Cup qualifiers in August, scoring 12 points in 17 minutes of action, and has been invited back to represent Australia in an additional FIBA qualifying window this week, a rarity for a player his age.

Toohey has been developing for the past two years at the NBA Global Academy in Canberra, but didn't fully emerge as a top-shelf prospect until this past July with an explosive showing at the NBA Academy Games in Atlanta, where he led Academy players in scoring and finished second in steals and fifth in rebounding while shooting 60% from the field.

Toohey's combination of size, feel for the game, toughness and ability to play all over the floor gives him significant potential as a college player and could ultimately help him emerge as an NBA prospect at Gonzaga as well. Playing up by three years at the Australian U20 State Championship last April, he was used as a primary ball handler leading the tournament in assists with 6.3 per game, while also emerging as one of the best rebounders at the event (8.6 per game). Toohey also competed against professionals in the Australian NBL1 competition, his country's second division, where he showed notable improvement as a perimeter shooter (44% 3P%) while helping his Centre of Excellence team to an impressive 11-2 record in games he participated, averaging 13.5 points, 5.3 rebounds, 2.6 assists and 1.1 steals in 23 minutes per game, shooting 58% from the field.

Toohey says the level of competition of college basketball appealed to him, as well as the possibility of playing for a national championship at Gonzaga.

"One of the most important things to me is the possibility of building something special as a team," Toohey said. "Coming from Australia, where we pride ourselves on having great teams instead of great individuals, I see that culture in college. That's what makes Australians good players, being able to help teams win; that's what gets players recognized."

Toohey is the latest in a line of notable players to come out of the NBA Academy system, which was only established in 2017, but has already emerged as one of the most prolific pathways for elite international talent to utilize as steppingstones to making the NBA, counting lottery picks Josh Giddey, Bennedict Mathurin, Dyson Daniels among its alumni the past two years. Toohey says the work they conduct in practice in Canberra is the key behind the considerable success its graduates are enjoying in the college basketball and professional ranks.

"It's the preparation and work we put in at training, along with the focus on the weight room and recovery," Toohey said. "All former players I've spoken with say 'it's the hardest practices you'll have in your career.' The coaches constantly remind us of what we're getting ready for. We've been taught what it takes to be pros. That's what has allowed so many Academy graduates to exceed expectations."

Toohey will spend additional time in the U.S. prior to enrolling at Gonzaga next summer at the Tarkanian Classic and NBA Academy G League Winter Showcase in Las Vegas next month, as well as with a potential invite to the Nike Hoop Summit in Portland in April.

Toohey is the second commitment Gonzaga has received in the Class of 2023, joining sharpshooting wing Dusty Strohmer, ESPN's No. 48 recruit, who hails from Southern California. With seniors Drew Timme, Malachi Smith and Anton Watson graduating, and projected second round picks Julian Strawther and Nolan Hickman potentially off to the NBA ranks, the Zags still have work to do looking towards next season, which may ultimately be conducted mostly via the NCAA transfer portal.

Jonathan Givony is an NBA draft expert and the founder and co-owner of DraftExpress.com, a private scouting and analytics service utilized by NBA, NCAA and International teams.